American, born Germany, 1830-1902
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In 1859 the young Albert Bierstadt made his first trip to the American frontier as part of an exploring expedition, a federal survey of wagon roads. Upon his return to New York, Bierstadt combined his Düsseldorf art training with the aesthetic of the Hudson River School to produce grand visions of the American West that enjoyed almost instant success. Museums and collectors clamored for the giant, operatic landscapes executed with an acute sense of the romantic. Bierstadt accumulated wealth and fame; in 1864 his painting of the Rocky Mountains sold for twenty-five thousand dollars, then the highest price paid to date for any work of art, and he was the focus of New York’s first ticker-tape parade. He painted "Puget Sound, on the Pacific Coast" in 1870, ten years before he set foot in the area (his previous trips took him only as far north as the Columbia), probably based on his reading of books such as The Heart of the Continent by his traveling companion Fitz Hugh Ludlow, and Canoe and Saddle by Alfred Powers. Bierstadt continued to produce his formulaic visions even as critical and public taste turned to new styles; he declared bankruptcy in 1895 and died in relative obscurity seven years later.
Artist biography reproduced with permission of Katharine Harmon, author of The Pacific Northwest Landscape: A Painted History.
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